TORONTO — John Gibbons made a tweak to his lineup Sunday morning, moving the red hot Ben Revere into the leadoff position and dropping the slumping Troy Tulowitzki to fifth in the order.
“Obviously, I’ve been struggling a little bit offensively, so I think the switch was maybe to try to get myself going, and at the same time try not to mess up what we have here,” Tulowitzki said. “I’m sure it was a tough decision for Gibby. But Ben’s been playing exceptionally well. He’s been swinging the bat really, really well.”
Revere struggled offensively in his first few games as a Blue Jay after being acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline, but has been one of the team’s hottest hitters since. He’s currently riding a nine-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in 25 of his last 46 plate appearances.
Tulowitzki, meanwhile, has performed well below his career standard while in Toronto, hitting .227/.331/.373 since being acquired a month ago. He’s been the team’s everyday leadoff hitter throughout that span, but on Sunday morning when he arrived at Rogers Centre, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told him that would no longer be the case.
“I said, ‘hey, do what you want. You’re the manager; I’m a player. I’m gonna go out there and play hard every single day. [The lineup] is none of my business,” Tulowitzki said. “‘You make the lineup and hopefully I’m in it. And if I am, I’m going to go out there and do what I can to help us win.’”
Tulowitzki said that hitting leadoff had been a minor adjustment for him, having hit in the heart of the order throughout his ten-year career with the Colorado Rockies. But he also noted that it was only a factor in the first inning, when he wasn’t able to observe the starting pitcher early in ballgames before taking his first at-bat.
After the first, he often came to the plate with runners on base, and has taken some crucial late-game at-bats for the Blue Jays, including an epic 12-pitch battle with New York Yankees closer Andrew Miller on August 14, and a clutch game-tying single off Texas Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson in the ninth inning this past Tuesday.
“For me, I don’t think [hitting leadoff] is the reason why I haven’t been myself offensively,” Tulowitzki said. “If anything, it was just weird sometimes having three at-bats by the third inning, you know? That was a little bit different. Every time I came in [to the dugout] I felt like I was grabbing my helmet. But that’s a good problem to have because it means we’re scoring runs at a high pace.”
The Blue Jays have won 23 of their 28 games since Tulowitzki was acquired and have been especially prolific of late, scoring more than 10 runs in four of their last seven games. In spite of that, Tulowitzki’s position in the batting order had been a consistent topic of debate on talk radio and in the Blue Jays corner of the internet.
Gibbons had thus far refused to bump Tulowitzki down in the order, saying he wanted his best hitters at the top of the lineup so they can come up late in games when they’re needed most. On average, a leadoff hitter will see about 30 more at-bats than a No. 2 hitter over the course of a season, and almost 70 more than a No. 5 hitter. It stands to reason that Gibbons would want Tulowitzki taking as many at-bats as possible, as he has undeniably been a more potent offensive threat than Revere over the course of his career, with an .880 OPS that dwarfs Revere’s .674.
But the hot hitting of Revere, and a desire to find an answer to Tulowitzki’s slump as a Blue Jay, seems to have forced Gibbons’ hand.
“I think [Gibbons] wasn’t quite sure what to do. That’s what makes a manager’s job so tough,” Tulowitzki said. “It’s like, okay, we’re winning games, but at the same time I feel like I want to get Tulo going a little bit. He hasn’t hit leadoff, so maybe it’s affecting him.”